A Little Lentil Stew with Purple Kohlrabi


The Kohlrabi

For the first time ever, I have grown Kohlrabi in my garden.  I ordered a purple heirloom variety from Heritage Harvest Seeds. It is amazingly peppery and much denser than others that I have had.  Kohlrabi is a member of the Brassica family, and the bulb forms as the stem swells and bulges a few inches up from the base of the plant.  The leaves are also edible and I use them as I would kale.  All Brassicas are extraordinarily healthy, and I think the more peppery and bitter the green, the more healthy compounds are likely present.  There is a wealth of writing about this, and Nancy Harmon Jenkins suggests that we should be eating veg from the Brassica family each day.

Tonight we took inspiration from Alice Waters’ Kohlrabi Dal.  However, beyond adding the cubed kohlrabi, I followed a method outlined by Nigel Slater.  This was further modified though by my addition of a combination of pre-cooked green lentils, and uncooked red lentils, rather than his suggestion of yellow split peas.  I have learned always to pre-cook green or brown lentils if tomato is being added to the dish.  It seems the acidic tomato affects the lentils from turning soft and they, as a result, take an age to cook.  This is not an issue with red lentils as their outer shell is removed in processing.

If no kohlrabi is available, you could use kale, cabbage, waxy fingerling potatoes, red carrots or yellow beats, or even zucchini.


The Stew

Tonight’s lentil stew began with a walk about in our garden.

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It started with a Kohlrabi, which I peeled and cubed.  The tenderest leaves were sliced and tossed in as well.

Followed by a gorgeous heirloom tomato which was roughly chopped.

Then I added an Italian heirloom  shallot from my garden and some farmer market fresh garlic.

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All was sautéed with a spoonful each of turmeric, coriander, cumin, paprika, and a pinch of salt and a grinding of black pepper.  A half cup of pre-cooked green lentils and three-quarters a cup of uncooked red lentils were added and just enough water was tipped in from the kettle.  After 20 minutes of simmering a stew emerged from the aromatic steam.

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The Herb and Cashew Paste

Nigel Slater’s herb and cashew paste brought life and lift to the stew.  I pureed basil, mint, the tops of the shallot,  parsley, and nasturtium seed pods (to add some peppery bite, see photo of shallot) along with cashews I toasted in a dry pan.

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The Chickpea Flatbread

This could have been served with rice, but we decided on a chickpea flatbread.  This bread is something I am quite proud of.  It is full of tricks and gimmicks and evolved over the years, first from a flatbread recipe by Jamie Oliver.  Now, rather than following his process I simply add a half tin of chickpeas which have been lightly crushed with whole cumin and a few tablespoons of olive oil to a half batch of Jim Lahey’s basic pizza recipe.   I add the mashed chickpea mixture to the dough after it has risen and then press it out onto a pizza stone.  All is finished with a sprinkle of olive oil and sprinkle of grey sea salt.  Basically what emerges from the oven is a kind of multi-cultural focaccia which works with Indian, Middle Eastern and almost any other food.

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